Freddie Cheng’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Without the revealer it would have taken me notably longer to see the theme. That’s because in addition to the four theme entries there are two across answers equal to the length of the shorter pair of theme pairs (10 letters), one of which contains a word starting with a letter common to the actual themers. 36-down [Pizzazz … or what 18-, 23-, 46- and 56-Across each has] WOW FACTOR. To wit, each is three words, with the initials W-O-W.
- 18a. [Heated argument] WAR OF WORDS.
- 23a. [Take while no one’s looking, say] WALTZ OFF WITH.
AND THIS IS WHERE THE DISTRACTION CAME.*
34a [Material in a fire starter set] MATCH WOOD. Okay, fine, so it’s MATCHWOOD. Still, it’s quite the decoy.
- 46a. [Exhibits a superhuman quality] WALKS ON WATER.
- 56a. [1937 Laurel and Hardy romp in the frontier] WAY OUT WEST.
Anyway, it’s a solid but ironically lackluster theme. And there are quite a lot of W-O-W phrases to choose from, including a good many terse ones, appropriate for a 15×15 grid. This explains why the fill is as smooth as it is, ARETE and SNEE, ASWOON and A SON notwithstanding. Et alia.
Further, the cluing is extremely straightforward, so the crossword was super-fast to solve. In fact, if my laptop’s keyboard weren’t beleaguered by various mechanical ills, I venture that this would’ve been my fastest solve ever for a grid this size.
- 62a [Argon and xenon] GASES. Followed immediately, immediately, by 63a [Alien: Prefix] XENO-. Really??
- 47d [Rock’s Perry or Tyler] STEVE. Doesn’t the latter go by Steven? This seems like a clue that was intended for a later-in-the-week offering, attempting to mislead the rock-savvy solver with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, to the exclusion of Journey’s STEVE Perry. Monday morning edit: Maybe it was just meant to playfully evoke actor Tyler Perry?
- 45d [Boxing combo] ONE–TWO. 19d [Recoil slightly, as from an oncoming punch] FLINCH. 45a [Response to a punch in the gut] OOF.
Also, please let it be noted that I refrained from including any Plasmatics songs in this write-up. You’re welcome.
Julian Thorne’s (Mike Shenk’s) Wall Street Journal crossword, “LOL!” — Jim’s review
Straightforward Monday puzzle to start the week off. The NYT made you go WOW. Will the WSJ make you LOL?
- 17a. [The prime meridian, for example] LINE OF LONGITUDE
- 26a. [Work that’s its own reward] LABOR OF LOVE
- 43a. [Comfortably wealthy existence] LAP OF LUXURY
- 55a. [Tycoons’ wives, often] LADIES OF LEISURE
Nothing particularly funny, but cleanly constructed of course.
Once upon a time I was collecting LOL phrases for a puzzle theme. Nothing ever came of it, but here are some other possibilities: LAND OF LINCOLN, LEG OF LAMB, LOAD OF LAUNDRY, LOOK OF LOVE, LOTS OF LUCK, as well as LITTLE OLD LADY. It’s certainly cleaner to have all the phrases be the same format (___ OF ___).
What else? We have a mini-Mexican theme (that is, a mini-theme as well as mini things from Mexico) in PINTO BEANS [They’re refried in Mexican cuisine] and CHIHUAHUAS [Dinky dogs]. Cute!
Didn’t care for ODER crossing FARO. And I still don’t know who CSN is (30a, [“Wasted on the Way” band, for short]). Oh. Duh. Crosby, Stills, & Nash. Do their fans really call theme CSN? Of course, I didn’t recognize the song title while solving, but instantly knew it when I heard it (see below).
Favorite entry is TWIXT which is making me hungry. Oh, and NATASHA. Any reference to Bullwinkle gets a thumbs-up in my book. That’ll do it for today. Until tomorrow!
Timothy L. Meaker’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
This crossword has it all! Four times!
- 20a. [Theoretical temperature at which molecular activity ceases] ABSOLUTE ZERO.
- 31a. [Astronomical phenomenon] TOTAL ECLIPSE.
- 40a. [0, 1, 2, 3, etc.] WHOLE NUMBERS.
- 52a. [Rarity for a pitcher, nowadays] COMPLETE GAME.
That’s the lexigraphic aspect, but how does it fare in the idiomatic sense, how comprehensive is the puzzle? Answer: pretty good.
Qualification: for a Monday offering in a national outlet. This is to say that it has a decent theme, a solidly constructed grid with good flow, a minimum of poor fill, and competent if not overly lively cluing.
- Favorite clue: 37d [Dead ends?] DEES.
- Least favorite fill: plural ARPS, basketball Hall-of-Famer Wes UNSELD, Bambi’s aunt ENA, Idaho’s Latin motto ESTO perpetua, RVER, HAJJ at 1-across, even though this seems to be the preferred spelling nowadays. These are all too rough and/or tough for a Monday. Difficult for me to judge if having 19th century novelists BRET Harte (1836–1902) and ÉMILE Zola (1840–1902) in the same area makes that, section challenging. 7d, 9d
- 47d [Speed-reads] SCANS. A classic auto-antonym. Extracted from Merriam-Webster’s entry:
2: to examine by point-by-point observation or checking:
a : to investigate thoroughly by checking point by point and often repeatedly <a fire lookout scanning the hills with binoculars>
b : to glance from point to point of often hastily, casually, or in search of a particular item <scan the want ads looking for a job>
- Long downs are actually midlength downs. 4d [Indonesian site of a WWII naval battle] JAVA SEA; lots of in-clue hints to make it easier. 10d [Dangerous place for an embedded journalist] WAR ZONE. 40d [Two-person log-cutting tool] WHIPSAW. 43d [Toronto baseballer] BLUE JAY.
All in all (in all in all), a fine Monday crossword.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”—Amy’s write-up
Random, unfocused comments from a sleepy person: I like UBER DRIVER but never take Uber. Like “I DEMAND A RECOUNT,” “SO WHAT,” BOULEVARDS, “SEE YA LATER,” IVAN THE TERRIBLE. Not keen on plural-magazine-of-yore YMS, plural TUTS, partial ONE I, crosswordese RIA, I-only-see-this-in-crosswords ALLAN-A-DALE, LEY, ERNS, and LASHER.
Never heard of 43d. [Big name in wind turbines], VESTAS.
3.5 stars from me. Ta ta!
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Military Band” —Ade’s write-up
Man, teaching at a football camp can take up a whole lot of your time!! Sorry for the late post and short write up, but definitely liked the puzzle from Ms. Donna S. Levin, who turns common phrases into puns with the cluing to each of the theme entries, hitting on different branches of the military along the way.
- GENERAL ASSEMBLY (17A: [Army honcho who’s on assignment to the United Nations? ])
- MAJOR SURGERY (27A: [Air Force officer who’s in charge of medical services?])
- ADMIRAL RANGE (48A: [Navy commander in chief who supervises the galley?])
- PRIVATE PROPERTY (62A: [Marine enlistee who enforces the “No Trespassing” signs?])
Tougher than expected, especially since I caught on quickly to the theme. I definitely find Donna’s puzzles extremely enjoyable, and they usually play a little bit harder for me. Absolutely blanked on ST. MARY’S, which made me upset since I should have been/was familiar with the film (10D: [Title church in a Bing Crosby /Ingrid Bergman movie]). Looking it up now, and seeing the title, The Bells of St. Mary’s, on IMDB is just making me more upset, as I should have remembered. Other than stew in my own juices because of that, I’ll just step aside now and do some more mentoring to East Texas high school kids. But, before we leave, …
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SACCO (1A: [Codefendant in a controversial 1921 criminal trial]) – Former National League hockey player Joe SACCO is currently an assistant coach with the Boston Bruins. Sacco scored 94 goals and had 213 points in his playing career, which spanned from 1991-2003. Sacco played most of his career with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, from 1993 to 1998.
See you tomorrow with a much more detailed (I hope) summary of the grid.